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Negotiating stance within discourses of class: Reactions to Benefits Street

Paterson, Laura L.; Coffey-Glover, Laura and Peplow, David (2016). Negotiating stance within discourses of class: Reactions to Benefits Street. Discourse & Society, 27(2) pp. 195–214.

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DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link: https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926515611558
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Abstract

In this article, we examine the way that audiences respond to particular representations of poverty. Using clips from the Channel 4 television programme Benefits Street we conducted focus groups in four locations across the United Kingdom, working with people from different socioeconomic backgrounds who had different experiences with the benefits system. Benefits Street (2014) is an example of reality television where members of the public are followed by film crews as they perform everyday tasks and routines. Our choice to focus on this particular programme was prompted by the huge media response that it received when it was broadcast; Benefits Street generated 950 complaints to regulatory watchdog Ofcom and was referred to as ‘poverty porn’. We focus on the way that viewers of this programme produce assessments of those on benefits, analysing the discursive strategies used by our participants when evaluating representations of those on benefits. Specifically, we consider how the participants in our study construct their own stance and attribute stance to others through naming and agency practices, the negotiation of opinion and stake inoculation. We invited our participants to judge the people they saw on screen, but they went beyond this. They used clips of the programme as stimuli to collaboratively construct an overarchingly negative stereotype of those on benefits. We conclude that Benefits Street is not just an entertainment programme, but is rather a site for ideological construction and the perpetuation of existing stereotypes about benefit claimants. The programme (and others like it) invites negative evaluations of those on benefits and is thus a worthy site for critical linguistic analysis.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2015 The Authors
ISSN: 0957-9265
Keywords: Benefits Street; class; critical discourse analysis; focus groups; group identity; naming; negotiation; poverty porn; stake inoculation; stance
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Languages and Applied Linguistics > English Language & Applied Linguistics
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Languages and Applied Linguistics
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
Item ID: 61058
Depositing User: ORO Import
Date Deposited: 10 May 2019 14:36
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2019 18:52
URI: http://oro.open.ac.uk/id/eprint/61058
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